Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Store Opening - Chinese Style

I shall start with dragons. The Chinese sort. Red, furry. The sort that dance to drums. The sort that snake through shopping malls and street and breathe out nothing but air, and seem to be sizing you up: how much are you worth? After all, the dragon's youngest son is the god of merchants. In particular his constipation was revered - everything went in but nothing came out.

It was a slightly bossy sort of entertainment; an ushering from the hotel to air-conditioned coach, from coach to a shopping mall, then through crowds to a partitioned area 'for VIPs' in front of the building. The drumming grew louder and the sun grew hotter. The dragons shook with excitement. We were shown to chairs, each one decorated with a flower.

Again, there were lots of flowers.

Flowers in the lapels of the donors and supporters (who had to step forward, on cue, to acknowledge their part)

and flowers festooning the stage, the walkways, the walls, the spaces besides the lifts. To the human flowers it was a tedious business.

Maybe she wanted to hear the music played on lyres and flutes

or hold the young children with awed, tired faces.

Or maybe she was longing for the moment when she could spend, spend, spend. There was enough to tempt anyone. Each small cube was filled with scarves

dresses, suits, jackets, cloths. While on chairs the shopkeepers unpacked, ironed or looked after their babies that this day had come along too.

Then, after that opening, another. This time in a bigger, more expensive-looking place.

Once again there were crowds kept back from our special area of privilege,

and then the same line of officials waiting to step forward

and the same barked-out speech from the local politician

but this time there was something waiting to be uncovered - something tall and and red, something maybe that symbolised the modern Hangzhou

to the accompaniment of pink smoke, fire-crackers

and giant party-poppers. A statue that looks to me to be inspired by the dollar.

Then inside a western-style mall with glass and more flowers

and a banquet with a clutch of models - who poised, preened and strutted like quiet, ill-humoured birds

although one smiled...

After all - capitalism, even communist-style, is allowed to be fun - sometimes.


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